5 Things to Consider When Searching for a Therapist

So you’ve decided you’re ready to see a therapist, good for you! No seriously, that’s great. Maybe you’re still on the fence about seeing one, that’s ok too! Now comes the task of finding that perfect stranger to share your most personal thoughts and feelings to. I realize this task may sound scary and even impossible, but it can be done. I recently saw a therapist for the first time and had an amazing experience. I’ve listed exactly what I took into consideration before making my final decision, it is my hope that by sharing I can make the task a bit easier for you. 

How Can I Afford Services? 

This is the very first thing I considered in my search for a therapist. It’s the very first thing because I assumed therapy to be crazy expensive. I also didn’t think that therapists took insurance -honestly, I don’t know why. Well lucky for us, therapy can be affordable and you can use insurance. If you do have insurance, either call your insurance provider or look on your insurance website to see who is in your network. Just as a visit to your doctor, you may be required to pay a copay. I would also recommend looking to see if your workplace offers an “Employee Assistance Program” and if you’re able to utilize it. These programs usually offer short-term counseling, but it’s definitely a start. So maybe you don’t have insurance, there is always the option to pay out of pocket. Even then, I would recommend looking for therapist who offers a sliding scale fee.  A sliding scale fee simply means that you will be charged based on your income. For my college/grad students, many universities offer counseling services that are funded by your tuition.

What Am I Looking to Work On?

Depression, Anxiety, PTSD? It’s important to have some idea about what you’re seeking therapy for. Not all therapists specialize in the same mental health disorders/issues. As you go through your list of potential therapists, either call or look to see if they have a website. They will provide information as to what they specialize in and what areas they have the most expertise in. Many therapists are experienced in many different areas of mental health, a jack of all trades! This is great because you may have more than one thing to work on, at different points of your life.

Is This Therapist Licensed? 

Many people can call themselves a counselor, therapist, or life-coach. These terms can be used loosely sometimes. Being licensed means the individual has earned hours in a clinical setting as well as passed a licensing exam. You’ll usually find their credentials and licensing information on their website. There are many different professionals that offer therapy and have gone through schooling to be able to provide services. Just to name a few; Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). Students, be mindful that in a university counseling center, there may be interns offering services as a way to gain clinical hours. You have to decide if you are ok with working with someone who is not yet licensed.

What is This Therapist’s Approach to Therapy? 

This was a very important one for me. It’s helpful to know a therapists philosophy on therapy, as well as what therapies they use. You can find this information on their website or by calling. Believe it or not, no therapist is the same. They are all unique human beings with their own ways of thinking and doing things. As I was going through the website of the therapist I chose, I came across a “Common Questions” section. One question was “Do I really need therapy? I can usually handle my problems”. Her answer was, “Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you’ve faced, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, therapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and that is something to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting where you’re at in life and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking therapy. Therapy provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face.” As soon as I read that, I was hooked. Knowing that she felt that way about therapy made me feel a lot better about wanting to talk to someone.

Who Am I Comfortable Talking To?

Again, every therapist is different. Do you need someone to show you tough love or do you need someone to gently nudge you towards change? Do you want to talk to someone that looks like you or are you open to diversity? I personally was very interested in seeing a black therapist. My reason for that was because in my graduate program, I haven’t had the opportunity of learning from and working under many therapists of color. Everyone has their own preferences and that’s perfectly fine. I say be open minded. If something or someone isn’t working, be willing to change and adapt.  

I hope that this list has or will help you in your search for a therapist. If you’re still on the fence, I hope I’ve pushed you over a little bit, lol. One very important thing I would like to point out is that you may go through a few different therapists. THAT IS PERFECTLY OK. You may not vibe or connect with the very first one, but please please please don’t be discouraged. 

If you have any questions about therapy or therapists, please leave a comment or contact me. Also, feel free to share your experiences in therapy. I’d love to hear from you!

Check out my previous post about my personal experience seeing a therapist!

https://kurlsandkonversation.com/2018/12/22/first-time-experience-seeing-a-therapist/

A special shout-out to shikaardeta for suggesting I make this kind of post. Check out her amazing blog here! 

https://shikaardeta.wordpress.com

First Time Experience: Seeing a Therapist

Since the very beginning of my graduate program, professors have suggested the students see a therapist at least once. I remember thinking “I just want to be a therapist, I don’t want to see one”.  As I became more knowledgable on the topic of mental health and wellness, I began to realize that the suggestion was not so crazy after all. Then finally came the time when my own mental well-being was in jeopardy.

Think of mental health as a continuum. On the far left you have “mental well-being” and on the far right you have “mental illness”. Well in September of 2018, I was slowly but surely sliding on over to the right. Each day I slid a little bit more until finally, I had an emotional breakdown at work (in private, Thank God). I decided “Ok, it may be time to talk to someone”.

Honestly, I wasn’t too sure if I was depressed. All I knew is that something was wrong. Crying every day, feeling unmotivated, and constant negative thoughts was not healthy.

I started my search by going to my health insurance website. I was given a list of therapists that were in my network and would take my insurance. I went through each listing and went to their website (if they even had one). I researched their education background, what disorders they specialized in, and what methods of treatment they used. It was important to me to find a therapist of color, so I looked for that as well. 

I found one that looked promising and contacted her. We spoke briefly about what was going on and scheduled an appointment for the next day. I was so nervous the night before and even thought about cancelling because what if I wasn’t even depressed? What if I was wasting her time and my time? Then my boyfriend assured me that I was making the right decision. He said something along the lines of “Therapy is like prayer, you don’t only have to use it when something is really wrong”. Amen.

I went to my first session at 9:00 AM the next morning, and from that very first session she told me that she didn’t believe me to be depressed. She did however, believe that I was having a hard time mentally and emotionally. 

So, I wasn’t clinically depressed but let me tell you the reasons I went on to see her a few more times…

I did not lie on a couch while being asked “So how does that make you feel?” every two minutes

I don’t know why therapy is portrayed that way. That is not how any of this works. 

I was able to talk freely about my issues without being judged

Sometimes friends, family, and significant others can end up being judgmental without necessarily trying to. Plus, it’s helpful to get perspective from someone other than them. 

I didn’t feel like my issues were being minimized 

Example: “Mom, I’m sad” “you ain’t got nothing to be sad about, you got a roof over your head”.

I got to talk about different aspects of my life

I went for a specific problem but I was asked about my friends, family, boyfriend, work, and school. It was helpful to address all those areas of my life as well.

I felt like I was being listened to 

We’re talking about active listening here, not everyone has that skill.

I was allowed to cry

It’s nice to cry without feeling dumb or feeling compelled to apologize for it. 

I was challenged 

Yes, therapists should be empathetic and understanding. They should also give feedback and challenge you to new ways of thinking and behaving.

I felt comfortable 

My therapist was a black woman. She was very personable. Our conversation flowed easily. Her office was really cute and felt very welcoming. 

I feel very lucky to have had a great first experience seeing a therapist. I feel that I was properly helped and still keep in mind the things that I learned. I would, without a doubt, go back should I feel I need to. In my personal opinion, everyone could benefit from talking to a professional. We are all human beings with either issues, hard times, past traumas, dysfunctional thoughts, bad habits, unhealed wounds, or toxic behaviors. Some of us battle with these things more than others. Some of us deal with these things better than others. 

Therapy is not bad. Therapy is not only for certain people. Therapy does not make you weak.